Have you ever walked out of an interview and thought to yourself “What was that? I really didn’t get the opportunity to talk about my skills or past experiences at all!” If so, you’re not alone. I have a friend who recently walked out of an interview after only 8 minutes feeling the exact same way. I asked her why it was so short, and she told me that the interviewer seemed very distracted and didn’t ask many questions. To me, that sounded like the interviewer probably didn’t know what he/she was doing.
To help avoid having candidates think this about you as an interviewer, below are some tips on how to become a better interviewer.
Build Rapport with the Interviewee
A good interviewer will know that it’s important to build a rapport with the person that they are interviewing. If the interviewee does not feel comfortable, they’re less likely to give open and honest answers. Furthermore, if they feel uncomfortable or that the interviewer is uninterested or disengaged, this will likely result in a negative candidate experience, making the individual less likely to accept a position if offered. My friend is a prime example – she was offered the position but turned it down because the interview experience gave her a negative impression of the company as a whole.
In order to build rapport with the candidate, greet him or her warmly and start the interview with light conversation about the weather or traffic. Make eye contact and smile and nod as the candidate speaks, and ensure the candidate has your full, undivided attention. Put your phone on silent, or better yet, put it away completely. Turn off your email notifications and inform your coworkers that you should not be interrupted during this time.
Know what Questions to Ask (and Not Ask)
There’s a lot of prep work that goes into having a good interview. Before you sit down with a candidate, you should have a list of job-relevant questions to ask. In order to identify the questions to ask, a job analysis should be performed to determine the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities that are required to be successful on the job. Once those have been determined and the questions have been decided on, put these into a structured interview guide that can be used for all candidates being interviewed. This will ensure the interviews are consistent across job candidates and that only job-relevant questions are being asked.
However, it’s not enough to know what questions to ask, it’s also critically important to know what questions are off limits. A good rule of thumb to follow is if it’s not related to the job, don’t ask it. Questions that relate to any of the federal protected classes should never be asked during the interview as well. These protected classes include the following - race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, or disability. You should also make yourself aware of any state and local laws that may pertain to the types of question you are allowed to ask during the interview process.
Read more about the most common interview questions that can get you in legal trouble, and what to ask instead.
Ask Probing Questions
Don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions to the candidate’s answers. The goal of the interview is to learn about the candidate’s qualifications in relation to the job. You want to know if the candidates has the necessary skills and qualifications to be successful. So, if the candidate’s answer didn’t include all the necessary details, ask them! If you allotted 30 minutes for the interview, use the entire 30 minutes to ask the candidate about their experiences. Your job as an interviewer is to gather information, and the only way to do that is to ask questions.
It takes time and practice to master the interview. Before really starting to interview, I recommend going through a formal interview training and then practicing with your family and coworkers. Interviewing is a science and an art. It’s a science in knowing what questions to ask, but it’s an art in knowing how to ask those questions in order to elicit the best responses from the candidates and creating a positive candidate experience.